Managers Start To Discover The Limitations Of Artificial Intelligence

It turns out that AI can't solve all of the problems that managers face
It turns out that AI can’t solve all of the problems that managers face
Image Credit: Mike MacKenzie

I don’t know about you, but in the past few years, I’ve been reading more and more articles that seemed to present Artificial Intelligence (AI) as the miracle cure for just about everything. There certainly has been enough manager training on AI over the past few years. No matter if it’s what your customer are going to buy next or what the office temperature should be set to, the answer always seemed to have to do with AI. However, as time as moved on, managers are starting to discover that it may turn out that AI really can’t solve all of our problems.

AI Starts To Fade

AI can do a lot for managers. However, the one thing that it can’t do is deal with the situation when a sudden break from past trends profoundly reorders the way the world works. In a situation like this, the one thing you probably can’t do is turn to existing artificial intelligence. The reason that AI will let you down in a situation like this is because in order to carry out one of its primary applications, predictive analytics, today’s AI requires vast quantities of data. When things change this quickly, there’s no time to gather enough to feed the AI beast. The arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic is something that has caused everything to change. Many pre-pandemic models for many business functions are no longer useful; some might even point businesses in the wrong direction.

AI has seemed to many managers like a magic sauce that could be poured over any business process to transform it into a moneymaking machine, an unstoppable deliverer of things like self-driving cars even as it did away with white-collar jobs. As the date for those types of looming disruptions continues to be pushed back, it’s clear that AI isn’t progressing as fast as we were once told, and that it won’t be a cure-all when it does arrive.

It is hardly the end of AI; however, a chill is definitely in the air. Businesses for which AI is more of an add-on, as well as struggling startups and smaller firms, are laying off the data scientists that they had hired, and then they are complaining they can’t find uses for AI. Suddenly, there’s a vindication of those people who have argued that the systems most closely associated with modern AI – ones that can learn from huge pools of data – aren’t as capable as their boosters once suggested.

AI, Where Do We Go From Here?

The hype around AI, among those who actually use it, is tapering off. The flip side of this trend is we’re starting to see that, far from being magical, AI is most useful for accomplishing some pretty boring stuff. Managers use AI daily to boost their manager skills, every time they talk to a voice-activated personal assistant or unlock their phones with their faces or fingerprints. Beyond that, for most managers, AI is mostly about assisting humans in making decisions.

A good way to view what is going on is to think of it as being not so much a reckoning as a “rationalization” of the application of AI in businesses. Managers feel this is a time they can get rid of extra hires or lower performers who are not a good cultural fit. By contrast, the deep-pocketed big tech companies clearly see AI as not merely important but core to their businesses, and plan to keep hiring like crazy. A just-released survey found the two biggest barriers to the use of AI in businesses are leaders who don’t appreciate its value, and the difficulty of finding business problems in these firms for which AI might be useful.

Even managers that still want to make AI part of their business processes are discovering that they might have less need for specialists who build AI than the kind of day-to-day software engineering that is required to suck up data, clean it, then send it off to some cloud AI service run by the likes Microsoft, Google or Amazon. Most managers seem to agree that this role, known as “data engineering,” is the next evolution of data science. These kinds of jobs don’t require as much specialized knowledge and are accessible to a much broader array of people with coding experience. Yes, AI is failing to deliver on some of its biggest promises. But we’re entering a time when the things it does well are becoming more apparent.

What All Of This Means For You

Once upon a time, managers believed that the magic of artificial intelligence was going to completely change their world. It was just a matter of time before AI would automate everything and make the need for large teams a thing of the past. However, as we move forward, it is starting to become apparent that although AI may be powerful, it also might not be as revolutionary as we had once thought that it was going to be.

One of the reasons that managers are starting to have doubts about AI is because today’s AI systems work best when they have been trained with large amounts of data. However, when something changes quickly, there’s not enough data to train an AI system and so they become no good at making predictions. Managers had believed that AI would be changing things in the short term, but it seems to be taking longer than was expected. Managers are starting to understand that there are limitations to what AI can do. However, it does turn out that AI can be used to help humans make decisions. A rationalization of the use of AI appears to be going on. It turns out that there may be simpler ways to implement AI. This may make AI more available to more managers.

There has always been a lot of promise associated with AI. However, just exactly what can be done with AI has become less clear as of late. There is still a belief that AI can be valuable, just not quite as valuable as managers had thought it might be. A new way of looking at AI is emerging. With this new approach, managers may be able to do a better job of using AI to do what it is best suited to do.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: What boring tasks do you think that AI is best suited to perform?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Good news – the pandemic is over, now everyone can go back to the office. Or is it? Managers are finding themselves in a tricky spot these days. The initial wave of the pandemic seems to have started to ebb. Companies have been eager to get their workers back into the office so that they can benefit from all of the impromptu discussions, shared insights, and easier management. However, now that it is starting to look like the pandemic might not be over. Instead, multiple variants have arisen and they seem to be even more contagious than the original strain. Oh, and fully vaccinated people can catch the virus. What’s a manager to do?